If Dustin Johnson was going to win a major, it wasn’t going to be simple, right? DJ’s victory at Oakmont won’t be forgotten any time soon for a myriad of reasons.
Will his first major victory lead to more majors in the future? Our experts chime in on that and more after the 116th U.S. Open.
1. What should have happened on the fifth hole when Dustin Johnson’s ball moved?
SportsCenter anchor Matt Barrie: Exactly what happened. Dustin saw that the ball moved, and immediately alerted the playing official, who told him to proceed after they had a conversation about grounding his putter. That the USGA then came back after watching the video to tell Johnson a penalty might be assessed turned the situation into amateur hour. The USGA likes to believe it has the ultimate power over its tournament, but this was too much — and poorly handled.
SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman: I don’t know what the USGA was looking at, but he clearly didn’t make the ball move. But I equate it to the touchdown rule in the NFL — it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is a rule. I am just glad it didn’t cost DJ the title. Could you imagine if it would have? Johnson would go down as the most snake-bitten golfer of all time. But we don’t have to worry about that now.
Johnson overcomes rules farce for victory
Nothing could keep Dustin Johnson from his first major victory Sunday at the U.S. Open — not even the USGA’s absurd ruling to penalize him.
How Dustin Johnson saved golf — by saving himself
When Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open, he did more than claim a major. He reclaimed the narrative from the bumbling decision-makers at the United States Golf Association.
Michael Collins’ Sunday U.S. Open grades
From Dustin Johnson’s tenacity to USGA insanity, Michael Collins rates the highs and lows of the final round of the U.S. Open.
ESPN.com senior golf analyst Michael Collins: Nothing! How does the USGA have a commercial about kids being honest and calling penalties on themselves and then basically imply DJ was lying? If the USGA has greens at 14 on the stimpmeter and a ball on the green moves, don’t blame the player. Is taking responsibility for the greens not part of the rules and etiquette?
ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: His word should have been taken. As should have the word of his playing partner, Lee Westwood. The rule now does not presume guilt when a ball moves on the green. The player said he didn’t make it move. So did the other player in the group — whose job it is to protect the field. If the USGA felt differently after looking at the video and was determined to penalize him, that penalty should have been assessed as soon as possible. Waiting until the end of the round with no one knowing what would happen ultimately is what caused the outcry.
ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: The rules official should have asked Johnson if he caused the ball to move. And when he said no, that should’ve been the end of it. Letting it linger — and ultimately docking him the penalty stroke — was the wrong move.
2. Fact or fiction: Dustin Johnson’s win will now open the floodgates at the majors
Barrie: Fact. Like Phil Mickelson before him, Dustin now has the “greatest player to never win a major” off his resume and, more importantly, the mental hurdle that comes along with it. He has always had the most talent of any player in the world, but his head always got in the way. Jason Day told me at The Players that winning a major cleared his head in a way he never imagined and it would help heading into a tournament like The Players. He won that week. Don’t underestimate that same factor for DJ.
Coachman: Fiction, even though I want to say “fact.” No matter who it is, it is so tough to win a major. Anyone can win multiple majors in the next couple of years, but the major winners will keep coming from the top six or seven players, and DJ is clearly one of them.
Collins: Fiction. He’ll win four more majors, but it won’t be in two years (which I would define as the floodgates opening). It will take a little more than six years for those four to accrue.
Harig: Not necessarily. How many players have we said that about over the years? But it certainly will make it easier when the opportunity presents itself. Johnson said as much himself. Now all those other close calls serve to make his overall record look even better.
Sobel: There are no floodgates — not for him; not for anyone. Will DJ win another major? Yeah, probably. But so will Day and Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy and a bunch of other really good players. That’s the era we live in right now.
3. How are you feeling about the Big Three (Day, Spieth, McIlroy) after the U.S. Open?
Barrie: I’m even on the Big Three. Day worked his way into contention. Rory’s disaster made no sense. Jordan again showed how brilliant last year was because it’s so hard to duplicate. I expected much more.
Coachman: The same way I felt before. Day proved he is the best player in the world because his “bad” game is still good enough to finish within the top 10 in the year’s toughest tournament. Spieth has good weeks and bad weeks. Rory is the one who is the most inconsistent; his second round an example of that. To me, Johnson is the most consistent explosive player on tour.
Collins: Feeling like we should call them “One medium, and two smalls.” Day is doing all right, but Spieth and McIlroy (Rory on the PGA Tour) have been a bit disappointing. It’s not fair to expect Jordan to repeat last year’s feat, but Rory … I don’t get it.
Harig: No different. Only Day had a chance at the U.S. Open, but that is golf.
Sobel: Wait … the big what? I just checked the latest OWGR and it shows Johnson ahead of McIlroy. Does that mean DJ is in the “Big Three”? Does it mean there’s a “Big Four”? Let’s just say there are a lot of really good players at the top right now. It’s good for game. Let’s enjoy it.
4. What impressed you most about DJ’s victory?
Barrie: His mental toughness. From the weather, to 36 holes, to morning restarts, to losing the lead, to “ground gate,” to his tee-to-green on the 72nd hole, Johnson showed that the mental breakdowns that have hurt him in majors throughout his career are gone.
Coachman: The fact that he didn’t fold under the pressure. How many golfers could go back to the scene of the crime, meaning back to the final round with a chance to win the U.S. Open just 12 months after losing with a 3-putt. This is why the media and fans make more out of collapses than the players do. Whether it’s Spieth at the Masters, or DJ at last year’s U.S. Open, they shake it off and get right back into contention. It’s amazing that the same top players keep winning under the bright lights and pressure of these huge tournaments.
Collins: His composure throughout the day. Even after the “incident” on the 5th hole and the subsequent talk on the 12th, he kept hitting great shots and kept his swagger even if he wasn’t making putts — like a true champion is supposed to.
Harig: His driving accuracy. We all know that Johnson hits the ball a mile. But his ability to drive it those distances and keep it in the fairway often — a must at Oakmont — can be scary.
Sobel: I loved his composure down the stretch. Too often people think major championship failures are negatives in a player’s career, but Johnson proved yet again that these are simply building blocks to get to those elusive victories. He has learned from his failures and turned them into a successful journey around Oakmont. That’s impressive stuff.